‘Look, no hands:’ Sinclair College program shows off latest in automotive technology

Justin Morgan, chairperson of automotive technology at Sinclair college, drives a Mercedes with no hands on northbound I-75, Friday to showcase some of the vehicle’s self-driving features. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Caption
Justin Morgan, chairperson of automotive technology at Sinclair college, drives a Mercedes with no hands on northbound I-75, Friday to showcase some of the vehicle’s self-driving features. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Sinclair Community College instructors on Friday drove, parked vehicles and avoided obstacles all without their hands on the steering wheel.

The Sinclair Automotive Technology program capped off its annual Automated and Connected Vehicles Summer Conference that provides training to college instructors by demonstrating the advanced driver assist systems on Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Honda, and Subaru vehicles.

The Sinclair program was founded in 2018 and educates college automotive instructors on the developing technology found in autonomous vehicles. Some of the autonomous features include self-driving capabilities which allow the car to park, switch lanes on the highway, or brake to avoid a collision with minimal human interaction.

One of the most important aspects of autonomous vehicle technology is how it will help improve the safety of automobiles, said Justin C. Morgan, Sinclair College’s chairperson of Automotive Technology.

“Anything where we can mitigate an accident or prevent fatalities is super important,” he said.

Next summer, Sinclair’s program will expand to educate instructors on how to operate popular electric car models such as the Chevy Volt and the Tesla Model 3 to help bring them up to speed on the new technology.

“Between automation and electrification, that’s going to be the wave of the future for the automotive industry,” Morgan said. “There’s currently a skills gap that exists between current technicians and graduating technicians that we need to make sure we address for the automotive industry in Ohio.”

It’s important that all new technicians and instructors receive as up-to-date an education as possible regarding automotive technology, as doing so will help continue to do their jobs in a safe and effective manner, Morgan continued.

Kent Meckfessel is an assistant professor from Southern Illinois University who attended the conference this week. For him, the most valuable aspect of the program was the practical experience it provided, and he plans on developing a new class at Southern Illinois covering some of the new technology.

“Being able to drive it, put our hands on, see the equipment, utilize it so that we can fix the problems that arise with the cameras and calibrating them in the service ways, that actual technicians and students are going to be doing in the future,” he said.

The technology implemented in autonomous vehicles is only going to grow more prevalent throughout the automobile industry, Meckfessel said.

“There’s going to be more of this coming every day,” he said. “It is our future.”

Sinclair’s Automotive Technology Program has two-year associate degree internship-based programs partnering with American Honda, Stellantis Automobiles, and General Motors to prepare students for entry-level automotive service technician positions at local dealerships.

Additionally, Sinclair has a two-year associate degree internship-based program that works with independent shops and other dealerships throughout the region.